Like any man, I love my gadgets.
Three years ago, I moved into my current apartment. A few days after the move-in, the place barely looked inhabited. I had only a bed, a bookshelf, and a desk in my new place. At the time, I had been uncertain how long I would be in Saint Louis, and the thought of another quick move had encouraged a minimalistic lifestyle. I had no couch, no chairs, and little cookware. I also had no television.
Four weeks later – or should I say two paychecks later – I was ready to spruce up the apartment. I scoured the Internet, looking for the right price for the right item. I searched a number of different stores in the bi-state area. If Missouri did not have what I wanted, I was happy to head to Illinois. And that’s where I ultimately went.
One Saturday morning, I called the Target store in Belleville, Illinois, to confirm that I was coming. When I entered the store, I walked past the couches, the coffee tables, the chairs, and any other home furnishings I might have needed on that day. I wasn’t quite ready for the practical. So I walked right past those items, and into the electronics section. I told the salesperson who I was, and moments later, he was wheeling a 44-inch plasma television in my direction. It may have been a flat-screen television, but it took the two of us to hoist the oversized cardboard box into the back of my car. As I drove back into Saint Louis, I can still remember the huge smile I had on my face.
This was my television. And it was huge. When I finally set it up, I could see and hear it from any place in my apartment. It was awesome. It had television stations, a DVD player, and even a mp3 player. This my gadget.
By comparison, a butane torch isn’t much. It’s a small cooking device, no bigger than a water bottle. But when I ran the hot flame over the sugar, and watched the top of my custard caramelize, I felt that same rush of excitement as I did when I bought my flat-screen. This was my gadget, and I was getting to enjoy it.
Rhubarb Crème Brûlée
Recipe from Gourmet.
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
DOWN TIME: Requires 4 hours of cooling
COOK TIME: 2 hours
YIELD: Serves 6
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 pounds rhubarb (about 9 stalks)
6 tablespoons vanilla-sugar (or plain sugar)
5 large egg yolks (save the egg whites for cinnamon meringues)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1 Blowtorch (note: most torches do not come filled)
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
2. Trim the edges from the rhubarb. Cut the rhubarb crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, and arrange in one layer in the baking dish. Bake rhubarb, uncovered, in middle of oven for about 75 minutes. Transfer the hot rhubarb to a bowl and stir in sugar until combined well. Drain any excess juice, then cool the filling. You can make the filling two days ahead of time, and chill covered — just bring the filling to room temperature before proceeding.
3. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.
4. Separate five eggs. In a bowl whisk together the yolks and granulated sugar. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the cream and minced ginger over moderately high heat until it just comes to a simmer. Add the cream mixture to the egg mixture in a stream, whisking well. Skim off any froth.
5. Divide the rhubarb filling between six 3/4-cup flameproof ramekins. Divide the custard over the filling. Put ramekins in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the ramekins’ sides. Loosely cover the pan with foil, and bake the custards in the middle of the oven until they are just set but still trembling slightly, about 50 minutes. Remove the ramekins from pan and allow them to cool on a rack. Loosely cover the custards with plastic wrap, and chill them until cold: at least 4 hours, and up to 2 days.
6. Just before serving, sprinkle about two teaspoons of turbinado sugar evenly over each custard and caramelize with a blowtorch. Move the flame evenly, back and forth, just over the sugar until the sugar is evenly melted and golden. Alternatively, you can broil the custards under a preheated broiler set 2 to 3 inches from the heat.